My brother recently moved away from home to begin his first semester of college. I thought about my first semester of college and how much I changed during those four years. As I put myself in his shoes I thought to myself - what would I do differently if I had to go through college one more time? What would I do the same?
So a few weeks ago I sat down and wrote an email for him. I didn’t write it in an attempt to push him towards a different path. I wrote it because I think I would want him to do the same if he’d finished college before me. Here you go.
Start a business
Take something you’re good at, working out, and turn it into a business on the side. Be a physical trainer for people during your free time. Thanks to your classes, your days will be predictable and scheduling sessions will be easy. If there’s one thing [name redacted] and I both regret looking back, it’s not taking advantage of the freedom and free time you have in college.
Not only will this help your marketability when you begin to look for an internship/job but it may turn into your full-time job with or without a college degree.
I know you don’t want to do this but it has a lot of benefits and if you pass it up it better be because you’re doing something better instead. You’re good enough at something where people will pay you for your knowledge. They would literally be paying you for you. You’ll probably have an empty resume or one that doesn’t look like someone from your field and this is a way to change that while making an impression. You could have this above the high school jobs on your resume while everyone else has high school jobs.
Look attentive in class even if you aren’t paying attention
Nobody else is and teachers notice it. If you look like you’re paying attention, teachers will like you even if you never talk to them. This is exactly how I got my job as a teaching assistant for programming classes and I only remember talking to the teacher once or twice all semester. This job ended up being the reason why I got a job interview with every company I submitted my resume to. It doesn’t take much to get a significant advantage over everyone else in college.
Don’t be afraid to contribute to class discussions. Again, nobody else does and teachers like it when you do. It can suck, but get on their good side and you’re on the top of their list for job recommendations in a market where college degrees aren’t getting them alone. I heard roughly half of college graduates are unemployed. Avoid that.
Minor in something (in or out of class)
It doesn’t matter what it is but have a reason for it that you can clearly articulate. When you begin building your resume, interviewers basically talk through your resume from top to bottom. They’re going to ask about it so have a good answer. If it is unrelated to your major, it shows you have a variety of interests. If it is related, it shows you’re trying to expand into concentrations within your field and it sets you apart from someone else.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have minored in art. It complements a technical role well since software needs good design and it would have shown that I was seriously thinking about my future and growing my skillset. Since I didn’t, I’m teaching myself on my own time now.
Know your field
If I were to interview someone today to be a programmer, I’d ask them what blogs/books/websites/magazines they read on subject matter related to their field. How do they stay up-to-date? You’d be surprised how many people I was in school with who said they wanted to be programmers but they couldn’t tell you anything about their field. Would you want to hire someone full-time for a job when they aren’t even interested enough to dive into it on their own time?
When you’re coming straight out of college, everyone is essentially on the same level. You all took the same classes and you all worked random jobs in college and high school that are unrelated to your field (unless you change that). If a company finds someone who’s not an idiot and genuinely wants to work at their company or enter their field, they’ll see that.
I don’t know what you want to do after school but eventually you’ll meet someone who has your dream job. Be able to talk to them in a way that impresses them. They may be able to help you find a job or point you in the right direction. When you’re in college, it’s not hard to impress because most students don’t give a shit just yet. From what I can gather through social networks, they still don’t.